“Aquarium” Rhymes with “Vivarium”

Yes, forever, I know.

We’re just going to jump over everything to what I feel like nattering about today: aquaria and vivaria.

The cichlids and my pleco have been doing pretty well in my 55-gallon tank, but in the last few months the general population of Ron’s 75-gallon tank was waning, until only the couple Yellow Labidochromis (Labs) cichlid refugees from my tank, and one offspring, were left. Once the other fish had been eliminated, the labs in Ron’s tank turned into scaredy-fish. Then Ron’s filter started acting up.

Meanwhile, I started looking at bio-active vivarium (plants, soil, bugs as clean-up crew) information. Bio-active vivaria are mostly self-sustaining and self-cleaning, and tend to hold humidity well. That last is a useful thing for Chirrut, my Rhacodactylus Leachianus (Leachie, New Caledonian Giant Gecko). I’m also thinking of a simpler bio-active setup for Shai-Hulud, one of the male sand boas. 

Ron suggested making one of the aquaria into a bio-active vivarium, since it made sense to consolidate all the fish to one cichlid aquarium. We decided it would be easier to move the three labs from his tank to mine instead of moving more fish to his, along with a bunch of decor. Plus the gravel in his is a suitable drainage layer for a vivarium, the shells in mine not so much.  

So that’s what we did Saturday morning. Re-arranging most of my rocks (real and artificial) and driftwood partially defeated the “not moving decor”, and it turned out his tank had three adult Labs, not two. The count of one juvenile was correct. We also tried to suffocate my pleco, who had been hiding in a piece of artificial rock and fell out on the floor shortly after I removed it from the tank. There was lots of activity as the fish (a bunch of Labs and two White-Topped Haras) negotiated territory. The point of re-arranging my decor was to mess up the established territories, and it seems to have worked reasonably well. The pleco has survived, but spent the rest of the day and Sunday sulking in a cave. 

Yesterday morning there was apparently some warfare, based on the very beat-up Lab hanging at the surface in one corner of the tank. I’m pretty sure he (assuming, based on size, markings, and males typically dispute more) wasn’t injured when I got up with the dogs. Poor thing had torn up fins, tail, and body wounds. I debated, and decided to see if he’d survive the day. He did, and also survived last night.

This morning I thought of moving him to a breeder box/refugium in the tank. I poked around PetWhatsit and Amazon and found a couple that would work. Then I thought of the little desktop aquarium Ron had at Toshiba. Not in the spare bedroom, drat. Then I finally remembered that we have BUCKETS, one of which I’ve tried to keep fish-water only. And the sponge filter I set up in my tank 2+ years ago in case we ever needed to set up a quarantine/hospital tank. Plus in a separate refugium I can medicate without having to remove carbon from my canister filter, worry about meds killing all the beneficial bacteria, use less meds (because dosage is based on water volume), etc. etc. etc. 

Robin consented to be a Mover of Heavy Objects and lugged a 5-gallon bucket of water from the bathroom to the bedroom. Our well water is an African Rift Lake on tap, so no pre-treatment needed. He also cut a simple square-ish lid out of a piece of corrugated plastic signboard (bought for backing fabric with paper for bookbinding, but I don’t mind sacrificing one of 10 sheets), and suggested adding a couple pieces of rock from Ron’s aquarium. I caught the fish after several tries (amazing how well a fish in his de-finned state could swim), put him in the bucket, and dosed the water with general water treatment and an anti-fungal medication we had on hand.

The 150-watt heaters in Ron’s tank and mine (2 per tank) are over-powered for a 5-gallon bucket, so I poked around and finally found a 50-watt model with good reviews, adjustable temperature, internal thermostat-controlled, not-glass, and available via Amazon Prime same-day shipping. And I added a couple thermometers to make that free same-day shipping. I could stop and get *a* heater at the big aquarium store at Golf and Roselle, but there’s no guarantee I could get one in a reasonable power range with all the features I want. I am stopping at a PetWhatsit on the way home (PetWhatsit being right on my route) to pick up some anti-bacterial medication that’s good for preventative use in this kind of situation. 

Although the fish didn’t seem to have suffered any further injury overnight (I took a couple pictures last night to have for comparison), I wish I’d thought of the bucket refugium yesterday, so I could get him into a less stressful environment sooner. Refreshing my memory on hospital tanks, I should do daily partial water changes. That should be about a 5-minute job. 

Meanwhile, the gravel in Ron’s tank is drying, and we discovered why his filter wasn’t working – the intake was badly clogged, I think with the remains of a moss ball. Hmm…do I want to add the filter to my tank for ridiculous amounts of filtration?  His lighting should be reasonable for a vivarium, his driftwood is chunky enough for Chirrut when he grows up, and we have a misting unit that wasn’t quite right for the snake enclosure we originally got it for. Unless the Money Fairy blesses us with a present, I’ll be working on acquiring and assembling further vivaria pieces slowly. 

Next purchase (I ordered a book already – what a shock!) is probably a desert-ish soil kit for the sand boa. The isopods (rolly-pollies) and springtails I’ll get from a different supplier who doesn’t charge an arm and a leg for shipping if the weather is decent. I’m side-eye-ing the idea of succulents in the sand boa vivarium, as suggested by the guy who sells the soil kit. Previous reading argued that succulents are not good terrarium occupants, as they like air flow, and a vivarium is a terrarium with critters. The supplier I plan on getting most vivarium supplies from sells only a couple really tough types of succulents. If I do decide to try a succulent in with the sand boa I have plenty at work, anyway.